Seanad debates

Friday, 18 December 2020

Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

10:00 am

Barry Ward (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I endorse what Senator Seery Kearney said. I was speaking to a female colleague in the Dáil, who has two relatively young female staff in her office. She indicated to me that it is a routine matter that they receive fairly offensive and profane images by email in her office every day. One of the points she was making was exactly what Senator Seery Kearney said, that in a strange way, as part of this Bill, she has to be offended. Even though the behaviour by its nature is offensive and should be illegal, she has to be offended or somehow upset by it, and must concede that upset, and thereby concede something to the person who is sending the images in. As Senator Seery Kearney said, we should certainly look at whether we can update this law to make it more about the offender's behaviour than the reaction of the victim.

Section 3(2) has an important saver for the prosecutor. It states, "Subsection (1)shall not apply to a person who distributes or publishes an intimate image for the purpose of the prevention, investigation or prosecution of an offence under this section." That is an important provision. I remember the impeachment proceedings against a Circuit Court judge in 2004, when a Member of this House, who was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform at the time, brought impeachment proceedings in respect of a particular individual who had been accused, and acquitted, of the possession of certain images. A special Act of the Oireachtas had to be passed to allow the Oireachtas committee that was considering the impeachment to view the images involved. It was a tremendously cumbersome instrument that is bypassed by this saver in section 3(2). It represents some forethought and heading the problem off at the pass when this Bill was drafted, and is worth remarking on.

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